I was led to write this post based on this quote I recently read in a book called Founders at Work: Stories of Startups’ Early Days:
“ It’s good to be market-driven in the sense that you should know what’s going on, but you can’t let your customers drive your product development. You need to be able to develop on behalf of your customers, but they often don’t know what they want.” - David Heinemeier, Partner at Basecamp (formerly 37 signals)
A lot of times when starting out in business we will do anything to get and keep a customer, because of cause no customers equals no business.
However, it’s so easy to get caught up in just getting a customer that we lose sight of the type of customers that we actually want. All customers are not created equal, some customers are better for your business than others.
Think 80/20 rule, in most businesses 20% of the customers drive 80% of the revenue, so focus on finding and taking care of those high value customers that have needs that are perfectly suited to what you offer. The best place to start is with buyer personas, what do your ideal customers look like? This ebook 101Handy Questions to Ask When Developing a Buyer Persona will help you to build a picture of your ideal customers that you can use as a benchmark for everything you do.
But before you even get to your customers it’s important to define your vision what is the image of your business that has been placed on your heart?
I like this quote from a book I’m reading by Myles Munroe – The Principles and Power of Vision;
“To find your vision you have to look within yourself where God has placed it. The key is this: God’s will is as close to us as our most persistent thought and deepest desires”
Don’t let anyone distract you from the vision not even your customers. I say this because many business owners have ended up with businesses that they never intended to have, because they allowed customers or others to dictate or derail their vision. It’s great to get customer opinions and a lot of times their suggestions will make parts of your business better. But it’s important to know when to say no. If you realise that a customer wants something beyond what you offer, if it’s outside the scope of your vision for your business, don’t be afraid to direct them to a competitor that may be better suited to accommodate their needs. Often you’ll be doing yourself a favour and them too in the long run.
We have been conditioned to think that the customer is always right, in actual fact they are not. As stated in the quote at the beginning of this post, quite often they don’t know what they want. How many of us knew we needed a smartphone or tablet before Apple came up with the iPhone and iPad?
It can feel as though the customer holds all the cards especially when starting a new business and every new customer feels like you’ve won the lottery, but remember a business transaction is mutually beneficial, yes the customer is paying you but you are also offering something of value.
My point is this, have a vision and stay true to it – build the business you want not the one you’ve been railroaded into creating. Don’t let gaining customers cause you to lose sight of your vision and the dream that has been placed in your heart.
So I’ll leave you with this, a beautiful example of a company that’s decided to stay true to it’s vision.